Romanian court acquits Beny Steinmetz

Beny Steinmetz Photo: Shlomi Yosef

The Israeli businessman was accused of using a Romanian company to make bribes in order to regain land, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Beny Steinmetz's lawyer Adv. Yuval Sasson has told "Globes" that the Brasov District Court in Romania has acquitted Steinmetz, communications consultant Yuval Zilberstein, and two other Israelis on charges of land fraud in the country.

The case developed following the nationalization of land in Romania under the Communist regime there. After the downfall of the regime, people who were private landowners in the 1940s were entitled to demand the restoration of their land. Steinmetz was a partner in and a consultant for a concern that held shares in a company that bought land rights from a prince in the Romanian royal family.

Steinmetz was accused of using the company to make bribes in order to regain land, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime. He was also accused of exerting unfair influence on employees who were involved in returning land to its owners. Steinmetz and Zilberstein have now been cleared of all of the accusations.

Sasson, who represented Steinmetz in the Romanian court case, hailed the court's verdict, saying, "From beginning to end, we said and believed that our client had done nothing wrong, and this is the correct result. Following a rigorous proceeding, we are delighted that the court accepted all of our arguments."

Steinmetz is still being investigated in Israel on suspicion of conducting fictitious transactions in Romania. The case in which he has just been acquitted is unrelated to the ongoing investigation.

In August 2017, Steinmetz was arrested and questioned on suspicion that together with others, he conducted a fictitious transaction in Romania in 2019 that included transferring money for purposes of bribery. It is suspected that the fictitious deal included the purchase of land worth €3 million at a price of €9 million. The police suspect that the remaining €6 million went into a petty cash fund used to transfer bribe money to various parties around the world, including €1.5 million to the wife of a former president of Guinea.

In December 2016, the Israel Police International Crime Investigations Unit arrested Steinmetz for questioning under caution. The police revealed that Steinmetz was suspected of involvement in a major global affair involving a bribe in the tens of millions of dollars paid to former Guinean President Lansana Conte and his wife in exchange for iron mining licenses on which the Israeli businessperson made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in 2006-2012. The International Crimes Investigation Unit questioned Steinmetz a number of times. Steinmetz deposited a NIS 100 million bond, including NIS 50 million in cash.

The Guinean government withdraw all of its accusations against Steinmetz, but the investigation against him in Israel is continuing.

Steinmetz's spokesperson said, "We hail the Romanian court's verdict. Following a Sisyphean process of proving the truth, it was again revealed that Steinmetz's business activity was irnreproachable. The Guinean government signed a settlement retracting all of its claims against Steinmetz, and it was proven that all of his acts in Guinea were blameless. Today, it was demonstrated that the accusations in Romania against Steinmetz were groundless.

"Steinmetz will continue to prove his innocence in all of the proceedings until the truth is brought to light and his good name is completely and absolutely cleared. We are absolutely certain that this will be the finding in every proceeding everywhere in the world. Steinmetz will continue his business and philanthropic activities, as he has done until now."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 27, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Beny Steinmetz Photo: Shlomi Yosef
Beny Steinmetz Photo: Shlomi Yosef
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